ST. LOUIS | Blues fans may disagree with Ken Hitchcock on this one.
After needing a game-tying goal late in regulation, and then enduring three overtimes for a Game 1 victory over Chicago on Thursday, the Blues put themselves in dire straits again Saturday in Game 2. They coughed up a two-goal lead and trailed the Blackhawks by one as the precious last seconds ticked away.
“Kind of fun to be honest with you,” Hitchcock said. “In a very sick way, but it’s kind of fun.”
Well, if the outcome didn’t appear so bleak, then the emotion wouldn’t feel so good. And after another come-from-behind bailout at Scottrade Center, the 19,639 fans in attendance Saturday may have been in agreement with Hitchcock.
Vladimir Tarasenko caused a tense crowd to put air between them and the arena floor, scoring with seven seconds left in regulation to match Chicago, and then Barret Jackman sent everyone onto the St. Louis streets celebrating another 4-3 overtime thriller over Chicago.
This game didn’t require triple-overtime like Thursday, thankfully according to Jackman, who ended the afternoon with a wrist shot that trickled through the legs of Chicago goalie Corey Crawford 5 minute, 50 seconds into the first OT.
“At least it didn’t last three,” Jackman said. “It was past my bedtime last time.”
The Blues took a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven first-round series against Chicago, which will host Game 3 Monday at the United Center, but they have not put the defending Stanley Cup champions to sleep.
The club only has to go back to last season, when it blew a two games to none lead against the Los Angeles Kings, to be reminded of that.
Plus, while the Blackhawks may have to move on without defenseman Brent Seabrook, who faces a likely suspension after his illegal head hit on David Backes in Game 2, the Blues could be without their captain the next time they take the ice and potentially longer.
The ugly injury motivated the team Saturday.
“It’s tough to see that (happen) to your captain, who does everything for your team, to go down,” forward Maxim Lapierre said. “The message was just, ‘We’ll win the game,’ and guys just emptied the tank to try to get the win.”
The Blues were forced to rally from a 3-2 third-period deficit after wasting a 2-0 advantage on first-period goals by Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Porter.
Shattenkirk’s came with two seconds remaining in the first period. Crawford was out of the net after making a glove save on Jaden Schwartz, and the crowd was screaming “Shoot!”
“I knew that I just had to get the puck to the net,” Shattenkirk said. “I just settled it and tried to rip it as hard as I could. I knew where I had to put it and I just gave it all I had.”
But seven minutes into the third period, fans might have figured that’s all the Blues had.
Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith scored with 2:35 left in the middle stanza for the team’s first goal in 119 minutes, 27 seconds. Ryan Miller’s streak ended at 53 consecutive saves.
In the third period, a shot by Seabrook deflected off Porter and glided past Miller for a 2-2 tie. Then Michal Rozsival put the ‘Hawks ahead 3-2 on a floating attempt that hit Backes and knuckled in with 13:22 left in regulation.
“The second goal can’t go in,” Miller said. “It’s not a good time in the game and it’s something I have to watch.”
The Blues had dropped to zero for nine on the power play when they went back on the man-advantage when Brian Bickell kneed Vladimir Sobotka. With a minute gone in that penalty, the Blackhawks were less than five minutes away from evening the series.
That’s when Seabrook leveled Backes with an elbow to the head. Backes lay on the ice motionless before skating off with the help of trainer Ray Barile. Initially, there was no signal from the referees regarding a penalty, but then Seabrook received a five-minute major for charging, along with a game misconduct.
The Blues had 5-on-3 power play for 45 seconds, and then a 5-on-4 advantage for the remainder of regulation.
“It won us the game,” Pietrangelo said.
Hitchcock pulled Miller with 1:46 left and with under 10 seconds to play, Pietrangelo passed the puck to Tarasenko.
“He was screaming something in Russian,” Pietrangelo said. “I don’t know what he was saying, but I figured he wanted the puck.”
Tarasenko teed up and let go of a laser.
“I didn’t know how many seconds left,” he said. I know I will wrist it as quick as I can, probably low glove shot. Kind of a hard shot for a goalie ...”
It beat Crawford, who stood up, turned his head and rest it on the crossbar in disappointment.
“I mean, (Tarasenko is) 22 years old,” Hitchcock said. “You imagine what he’s going to be like as a 25 or 26 years old? He’s got composure where most people just panic like crazy.”
The buzzer sounded and the ice was resurfaced for OT, the 10th period in two games.
Chicago erased a high-sticking OT penalty against Jonathan Toews, and 43 seconds later, Jackman put an innocent shot on net, not necessarily trying to score.
“Every time I shoot, I try to … “ he said, chuckling. “No, I saw three of our guys in front, they were kind of scrambling to get in the lanes, so I just wanted to get it by and hope for good things. It happened to go in.”
That started the fun. The sick fun.